Postcards from Syria: The Sliding Scale of Safety

Sometimes I am not strong enough to know Ahmed. If you’ve been following my posts, you know he is the guy in Syria who has become my honorary little brother and I am trying to raise money to get his family to a safe life in Canada, where private citizens can sponsor refugees. 

This is not a good time for him and, by extension, me.

Friday night bullets and missiles were within 350 feet of him. Tonight he said they were closer.

Much closer.

I usually ask him for an estimate of how close they are, but I didn’t need to tonight because he started to say all the things you’d tell someone if you don’t expect to talk to them again tomorrow.

He told me that if he didn’t make it through the night, I should give back all the money I’ve raised to the donors.

I told him I would keep helping his family. At least three of them speak English well enough to coordinate all the details I need to keep the process moving along, and I told him so.

“Maybe they won’t want to come if I die,” he said.

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” he said. “Just tell them I hope they forgive me.”

“For what?” I asked.

“For everything,” he said.

He is 22 and is coming to terms with death in a way most people don’t have to unless they are sick. To Ahmed and everyone around him, the prognosis for surviving a war is not good.

My post on Friday talked about the scale of safety, as I understand it. Bullets outside his home are not fabulous but not the worst thing, so long as he stays inside. Missiles launched from the ground are extremely worrisome, but the ones he could hear on Friday were a football field away. Tonight planes were overhead and he interrupted himself while talking.

“Sorry, a missile fell very near my home,” he said.

He has always been very polite.

I asked what floor he lives on, figuring on a better chance for survival in a building collapse if he’s closer to the top. Then again, maybe it’s worse because missiles falling from above could fall right into his kitchen.

I am extremely poor at war logistics.

I am, however, very good at grieving.

Which is what I am doing now.

I have no framework for how to process this. No way to make sense of it. I’ve lost people I love to illness and accidents, but so far none of them to a goddamn war.

It is horrible to watch it unfold in the million videos that fill my newsfeed. But it is soul crushing to overlay those videos onto someone I’ve adopted as my little brother. I love him as I do my own, and bring the same fierce need to protect him into our relationship.

“Don’t worry Marcy,” he said. “If we don’t meet on this planet we will meet in Heaven. Inshallah.”

“Inshallah,” I said. It means God willing.

So those of you who pray, please pray for him. And for me. It’s going to be a long night. Again.

Donate and learn more about his family here: 


Read the ongoing blog series about my relationship with Ahmed in Postcards from Syria here:

Syrian Stamp

*Because Ahmed and family are still in Syria and could be targeted, it is not safe to use their real names or photos.

Photo By Voice of America News depicting air strikes in Syria, at the Turkish border. Stamp image by Wikimedia user Stan Shebs, Creative Commons


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